Financial Education: The Proof is in the Pandemic

In tough times, I frequently find myself turning to this quote from Ovid, “Be patient and tough; someday this pain will be useful to you.” As principals, you undoubtedly are facing some of the greatest professional challenges of your careers. In the midst of this global pandemic, you are working fervently to deliver the best education you possibly can while doing your best to protect the health and well-being of your faculty, staff, students, and families.

Similarly, many individuals and families are facing some of the greatest financial challenges of their lives. Jobs have been lost, hours have been cut, and businesses have been closed. Meanwhile, people are trying to keep themselves and their children housed, clothed, and fed.

How, then, can this experience—this pain, in Ovid’s words—someday be useful to us? Ideally, we take what we have learned and use it to benefit ourselves and the lives of others.

One way to do that is to make sure all students receive financial education—either as a standalone course or embedded in other coursework at both the middle and high school levels. What should students be learning regarding how to manage money?

PUTTING ASIDE MONEY FOR EMERGENCIES

If the pandemic teaches us nothing else, it should at least reinforce the value of having money set aside for emergencies. While saving for the unexpected isn’t “fun” like saving for a vehicle or vacation, it is incredibly important. Research from the Federal Reserve Board and others has long shown that many families live paycheck to paycheck and lack the ability to withstand a financial emergency, many of whom are experiencing one now. In its 2019 pre-pandemic study, 16 percent of adults were not able to pay all of their current month’s bills in full, and another 12 percent said they wouldn’t be able to pay them if they had an unexpected expense of $400.

PAYING BILLS AND MANAGING DEBT

When faced with a choice between paying bills and going deeper into debt, what should you choose? Research has indicated that students who receive financial education in school make better financial decisions that can lead to higher credit scores and more. When students create a budget based on an expected level of income, they learn to balance income, track expenses, and distinguish between needs and wants.  When they learn the importance of credit scores on everything from interest rates to leasing an apartment, they can make more informed choices and understand the impact of paying bills late (or not at all).

CONSIDERING THEIR JOB OPTIONS  

Young people have often considered many factors when deciding on a career path. Since the pandemic, more of them may factor into that decision whether or not they can work from home and/or would be considered an essential worker.

DELIVERING FINANCIAL EDUCATION

Can financial education even fit on educators’ already-full plates? One of the great benefits of financial education is that there are numerous resources available to educators. One of the resources, Pathway to Financial Success, stands out as an easy-to-implement program in today’s educational landscape with its array of engaging digital content. The program, developed through a partnership of Discover and Discovery Education, provides resources for both middle level and high school students and educators.

At the high school level, educators can assign self-paced modules that students can complete on any device they have available. Divided into eight units, these modules cover everything from evaluating money habits to using mobile banking to deciding when to use credit. Classroom activities and family guides accompany each unit.

For middle level students, educators will find videos and lessons designed to fit seamlessly into the curriculum, including lessons for math, language arts, and social studies.

UPCOMING WEBINAR

Want to learn more about how to respond to the need for financial education? Join the webinar I will be leading on September 16, Just in Time Financial Education. I hope to “see” you there!

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Hilary Hunt is a financial education consultant with over 20 years of experience designing and delivering financial education. She serves as the financial education subject matter expert for Discovery Education.

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